Traces of Long Forgotten Truths

June 2015 Day 1
Leaving the Great House, the charming old Welsh long house where I’d spent the night in a room overlooking the river Usk far from the madding crowds of Newport, I was struck by the rightness of the huge wooden sculpture carved from oak tree roots at the end of the road from whence my warriors way commenced. It was a giant head entitled ‘warrior’. It looked calm, stoic, aligned with purpose.
I was thrilled the BnB I had chosen, part through chance, part through liking the look of the old stone building was within yards of the start of the Usk valley way, where my journey was to start.
As I set out through woodland following the Usk at my left I mused on my first impressions of the country so similar yet not to my own. The people reminded me of my native Lancashire, friendly and helpful, easy to smile. I’d noticed as I’d walked through Newport the previous day how some of the young women openly stared at me, an uncomfortable phenomenon that took me back to my childhood so that I forgot for a moment that I am now a mature woman of 50. On reflection my sense of not being quite right, not quite fitting in, seemed to be because my stature is so very different from the curvaceous, voluptuous nature of those that stared. I so wished to look like them, I realise now they probably wanted to look like me!
My musings on people types, these women have their counterparts in men who are broad and stocky, led me to wonder if the different races that came to inhabit these isles are still visible in our body types. My maternal grandfather had this stocky build. My grandmother came from Irish stock and she was delicate, birdlike.
I am soon pulled from my reverie by my arrival at the first golf course of this journey. I know them of old from my storywalk around England in 2010. Their neatly shorn greens make a mockery of maps and they contain fiercely shot missiles of the small white variety. This one was hosting an Open and was full of people, most of whom were not local enough to give me directions. Even the stewards were so intent in directing the new arrivals that their replies to my questions were short and sent me off route over and over. After what felt like an interminable amount of time wondering around in what felt suspiciously like circles I finally hit the road but as I walked I began to feel something was wrong…was I going the right way? I couldn’t follow my map because I didn’t know exactly where I was. For a moment I enjoyed thinking about that. How often do we follow other people’s frameworks for life without knowing where on that framework we ourselves stand. If you don’t know where you are to start with you might end up anywhere…unless,wont is to happen to me, a guide, a knight, turns up out of the blue. Today he rode a large quiet impressive looking motorbike. My gentlemanly courtier checked where I was going, told me I was the right road, but going the wrong way! How often I wonder in life do we do such a thing?
I turn about and stride firmly trying to make up for lost time. I don’t feel comfortable until I am beyond the golf resort and clearly further east than when I set out. I have spent my first hour walking around in circles. I feel cross and resolve to stick to the roads for the rest of the day. Privately owned land cannot always be trusted to have maintained public footpaths the way they are depicted on maps.
Now the way becomes straightforward and surprisingly pleasurable. After a little way I notice two things; B roads in these parts are quiet and the A road has a pavement protected from the roadway by a wide grassy verge., and the once Roman road the Usk valley way followed is beneath these main roads I now follow. I have walked out of Caerleon with its amphitheatre and picked up the straight Roman road just as those soldiers would have done. The walk feels so easy I wonder if the road itself is drawing me, used as it must have been to thousands of foot passengers.
The road to Caerwent has other foot passengers too, a gentlemanly young man of African descent on his way to work and a very sprightly elderly lady walk its way with ease. I am delighted. A place where walking is seen as so normal the pavement continues mile after mile.
Then I find Penhow castle. I’ve been looking out for it. I know it as soon as I see it. Its tree topped green hillside covered in ancient boulders calls me as if it is my home. I cross the road but see that it is private property. I follow the public right of way around its edges. Round the back I see that a castle has been added onto over the years and made into a home. It stands next to an old chapel to John the baptist. I try to go inside to taste its peace. It is locked. I sit in its porch and eat my lunch with a view of the churchyard yew.
As I leave, grateful I have had a little shelter and place to sit and eat, I am planning to stop at the next pub to relieve myself when I am amazed by a green portaloo right next to the porch. Almost as if life is providing for all of my needs. I return to the road passing the ancient boulders once more. I know that the current building with its castle walls was not the original building to stand on this site. I know it deep within myself. This was once a place dedicated to the feminine. A place of healing. A little way on I come to an old inn, recently refurbished, called the Rock and Fountain and I have my confirmation. Here was a place of healing waters. I know deep inside that I can trust my inner knowing to tell me what is beneath the things that are visible to the eye.
Now I leave the Roman road to veer off left to follow the lanes for the main purpose of today’s walk; I am headed north east to Llanmelin hill fort, some sources say that it is here that king arthur held court rather than in the Roman fortressed town. It is the site of an iron age hillfort. I reach it by village hopping, my favourite way to travel. Little yellow C roads I know are little more than lanes and quite delicious to follow and the settlements found along the way often full of surprises.
I am not wrong; the lanes are as quiet as my home Devon ones, and the locked chapel at Penhow is more than made up for by the beautiful church of St Mary beneath the woods in the village of the same name; Llanvair Discoed. It is a lovely grey stone chapel similar in appearance to Penhow chapel and inside full of deep peace. There is a remembrance tree and I shed a few tears for my father who loved country lanes too and write a card to hang onto the tree.it feels good to have a little private space in which to honour the love we shared.
Would that all churches would remember that one of their functions has always been a place of sanctuary and to regard that above fear of theft.
I walk on and skirt the wooded mound that was king Arthur’s stronghold. It feels majestic, full of oaks. It is a place of masculinity different in feel to the mound of Penhow. I follow the lane round to the entrance and walk a while on a trail through woodland, climbing gently all the while till it gives in a gate into a well grown meadowlandfull of humps.at first I don’t know where to look than my eyes adjust and I head for the circular enclosure to my right. I sit on the grassy edge looking in. I see at once how similar it must have been to Landmatters.
I am struck by circular patterns; the amphitheatre with its 8 entrances which inevitably had me thinking of the seasons and the 8 points of the year our ancestors observed and now this enclosure, and the roundhouses of Landmatters. When we are left to create naturally it is in circles that we build.
Now I am nearly home for the night. I return through the woods the sunlight dappling the trees and earth.it has a feel of faery land. I feel the first stirrings of the magic that being alone in nature always brings.
I haven’t seen a soul for several hours. The land becomes mine,my experience,my adventure.
Now I reach Shire newton my home for the night. I have booked in at the hunstmans. My map shows four pubs. It is the last I find. The Sunday lunch for dinner I order is fit for a king with six types of fresh vegetables accompanying. In the morning, the best cooked breakfast I have ever eaten away from home. I have been really honest about exactly what I want. A good lesson.
It’s raining outside.it was full moon last night. The weather always turns then. Pay attention next full moon.

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Where the Streets are Paved with Words

  

Day 2 June 2015
I arrive in Chepstow in the rain to the welcome sight of a planter full of herbs courtesy of Transition Chepstow and the local council.
As I walk further into the town I am charmed by attractive metal plates inserted into the pavements listing all the shopkeepers and their trade or goods that have had a shop in the building above it. It is interesting to note how often owners changed over time since the 1700s.
With my eyes now trained to look down I am soon to spot the replica coins, extra large size, that are also embedded in the pavements, along with words, in two languages, of what turn out to be a poem. I am intrigued; giggling ladies sitting on a bench, they proclaim, and a bit further it became clear they tell the tale of Chepstow, nestling as it does along the mouth of the Wye, a past not so picturesque as the picturesque movement once recreated it; black forges smoke and noisy hammers beat.

Further down as the pavement wends its way to the old town, closer to the river, beyond tales of cattle and butchers’ knives, fine goods and tall tales appears and I wonder what manner of tales were spun.

I am in need of a hot drink and a place to upload another blog, reply to those posting encouraging messages, and to get out of the rain before seeking out my transition hosts for the night. Down the old narrow street where traffic does not go I find the Lime Tree, a welcoming bar and cafe and let go of seeing the castle on its river till the morrow.
The Lime Tree is a writer’s paradise. I can imagine spending all my days here. It is one of those establishments where one is transported back in time with its pleasingly smooth wooden tables and uncarpeted floors, friendly young staff and bookcases full of books. It has that unique feel some places have of being just right. Instantly at home I get out my tablet and am brought a steaming mug of hot chocolate, with a perfectly formed heart drawn in the foam on top in chocolate.
Yes, tis a heartwarming place, this. A safe cossetting bolt hole for any writer, or observer of folk. I cast a memory’s eye back to a lost love who would have appreciated this place.
I cast my mind back to the day, a writer’s habit, trawling back through the day’s catch to sift it for treasure. It seems like another age since the morning’s most excellent breakfast at the Huntsman’s in Shirenewton.I have whipped up the steep hill in an inkling, staring back whence I came startled its done. Then I’m off, retracing steps, back past Llanmelin hill fort woods, back to the point,not far after Cwm, pronouncing the word silently to myself, trying to catch the flavour if this ancient living language, trying to make it mine.
Then I am into new territory and soon make Caerwent, that unique village of 3000 folk that nestle in and around the most splendid of Roman ruins to be found. Caerwent, venta silurium, was a walled town, and most of those fortifications can still be seen, particularly on the south side where they tower above a walker, only a fraction of their original height. I try to imagine how this must have felt to those journeying back in the beginnings of the first millennium. Caerwent really is an experience unlike any other.though there are houses and gardens there us a feel to them that they are sitting awkwardly amongst the ruins of the past/ the ruins have precedence. Later my hosts tell me that if an inhabitant wants to make any stru crural change they must first finance an archaeological dig. For me, an avid delver into roots of all manner this is an exciting prospect though I can imagine a rather less positive response coming from a householder of less means faced with a large bill for simply hoping to add a room for a growing family.
I visit the temple, forum and basilica, shops, houses, but not the church/ it us licked tight shut against all comers with a plank of wood wedged across the double doors on the inside. I ask at the post office, I am the third that morning to enquire but nobody knows why the doors have not opened this day. A fellow shopper pulls a face and says she has stopped attending that particular church and I wonder what the incumbent has done to turn a parishioner elsewhere. Tis a shame, the church is reputedly full of Roman artefacts, but this is not the theme of my walk so I walk on, wondering why as I do the were allowed to continue building alms houses on the site, just outside the east wall of a circular temple. In my quest for our roots I am now naturally drawn to the circular and though exactions at the time revealed it to be a Roman building still for me beneath on that now flattened site a n earlier structure may well have stood. The Burton alms houses though are tastefully done and I sit facing them to eat my lunch.
Once back on the road I soon leave the pavemented dualcarriageway and head off onto quiet country lanes in search of Sunstone mediaeval village, site of. I am mist disgruntled then to find that a modern barn conversion now straddles where the path must once have been with no way into the field where the remains lie.
I carry on along the lane !moving how it really is soon a walkway just for me, alone with my thoughts and the green of ear!y summer all about me.
Mounton church is locked against all comers and I sit u nder an ancient yew in a bench at the side of the road. I get to wondering of the parents of these ancient church side yews, and of the stories they would tell.
The rain starts to fall and accompanies me into Chepstow and doesn’t let up.
I eat a most deliciously prepared squash rissotto with Glyn and Rose and hear of transition land share, planters, green events and chicken club. It is most reassuring to hear of a transition initiative still going strong after several years, not having collapsed or burnt out. They are looking to branch out further, attract new people, younger people, and of projects to widen out their reach.
They talk of the town centre with few independent shopkeepers now and I recall Exeter’s community shop, a dream when I set out on my first storywalk, now a thriving hub and wonder if that is a possibility here.
Rose and Glyn are interested in inner transition and have heard Sophie Banks speak on it. They think it perhaps something to begin to explore more with their group.
After supper Rose and I head off into town to the Wye Valley Writers meeting. It will be the first writers meeting I have ever attended. I am excited and curious.
We hear of post election disappointment, horror of the Oxford junior dictionary removing words like acorn from the 2015 dictionary to be replaced with others such as mp3 and of the fear felt at the time of the Cuban missile threat through poetry and short story. I read my warriors poem and we listen to each others offerings and offer thoughts and seek clarification.
Audrey is writing a novel set in the late 50s when CND were set up whilst the Russians and the Americans were prepared to hurl nuclear missiles back and forth. She reads her !a test words and I am instantly there with her character. Now I along with the others am one more awaiting the publication of a work ten years in the making.
Vina offers a handy tip she learnt on a writers course, to gather all the threads, to write concise post it descriptions of the content of each chunk , characterisation and plots, and the they can be gathered and arranged and rearranged to find a final sequence for those who write pieces rather than sequentially following a place. I am aware that the book I am gestating has elements of both these styles and value the sharing as a way of supporting the process of weaving the past present and future into my tale.
Bernard suggests my poem be the beginning of my book and I for the first time consider including my poetry into my tale writing. I feel very blessed to have been party to this groups meeting, and greatly honoured to have been presented with a copy of their latest anthology: short stories and poems on the theme of Milestones.
As we leave to walk in the wind and rain swept darkening streets I think back with affection to the evening just spent. Angela’s impassioned ode to the loss of the words which has the group enflamed;imagine childhood with no acorn but attachment instead. Pam’s beautifully rendered piece on grief as election hopes are dashed. She tells me at the end how she holds the edge between transition and labour and I am thrilled. As each perspective is acknowledged thus our strength grows as a people. Honouring diversity is a catc h all that merits a closer look by us all as we weave the tapestry of our future each stitch that binds us lovingly to the next is what will make the vision shine with hope and resilience to stand the test of time.
We end the evening with tales of greenhouse doors flying off in the wind and perusal of maps and of how to avoid precipice walks along the Wye. The story of the gentleman who married his African housekeeper whose son became known in the picturesque times creating grottoes and things to delight the eye in the garden of the ancestral home by the Wye that should not be missed. I hear of the times, Napoleonic times, when the wealthy stopped their grand tour if Europe and rather “did” the Wye instead by pleasure boat. I am fascinated to learn that the magical river catchment area that has captured my imagination was forefather of the industrial revolution with the forest of Dean filled with old remains as much as it enchanted those of the picturesque movement.
It feels like this is an important lesson of life; no one state of being or identity is true; it is simply a face that has been worn to suit the circumstances. It holds true for us people as much as place.

Where the Streets are Paved with Words
I arrive in Chepstow in the rain to the welcome sight of a planter full of herbs courtesy of Transition Chepstow and the local council.
As I walk further into the town I am charmed by attractive metal plates inserted into the pavements listing all the shopkeepers and their trade or goods that have had a shop in the building above it. It is interesting to note how often owners changed over time since the 1700s.
With my eyes now trained to look down I am soon to spot the replica coins, extra large size, that are also embedded in the pavements, along with words, in two languages, of what turn out to be a poem. I am intrigued; giggling ladies sitting on a bench, they proclaim, and a bit further it became clear they tell the tale of Chepstow, nestling as it does along the mouth of the Wye, a past not so picturesque as the picturesque movement once recreated it; black forges smoke and noisy hammers beat.
Further down as the pavement wends its way to the old town, closer to the river, beyond tales of cattle and butchers’ knives, fine goods and tall tales appears and I wonder what manner of tales were spun.
I am in need of a hot drink and a place to upload another blog, reply to those posting encouraging messages, and to get out of the rain before seeking out my transition hosts for the night. Down the old narrow street where traffic does not go I find the Lime Tree, a welcoming bar and cafe and let go of seeing the castle on its river till the morrow.
The Lime Tree is a writer’s paradise. I can imagine spending all my days here. It is one of those establishments where one is transported back in time with its pleasingly smooth wooden tables and uncarpeted floors, friendly young staff and bookcases full of books. It has that unique feel some places have of being just right. Instantly at home I get out my tablet and am brought a steaming mug of hot chocolate, with a perfectly formed heart drawn in the foam on top in chocolate.
Yes, tis a heartwarming place, this. A safe cossetting bolt hole for any writer, or observer of folk. I cast a memory’s eye back to a lost love who would have appreciated this place.
I cast my mind back to the day, a writer’s habit, trawling back through the day’s catch to sift it for treasure. It seems like another age since the morning’s most excellent breakfast at the Huntsman’s in Shirenewton.I have whipped up the steep hill in an inkling, staring back whence I came startled its done. Then I’m off, retracing steps, back past Llanmelin hill fort woods, back to the point,not far after Cwm, pronouncing the word silently to myself, trying to catch the flavour if this ancient living language, trying to make it mine.
Then I am into new territory and soon make Caerwent, that unique village of 3000 folk that nestle in and around the most splendid of Roman ruins to be found. Caerwent, venta silurium, was a walled town, and most of those fortifications can still be seen, particularly on the south side where they tower above a walker, only a fraction of their original height. I try to imagine how this must have felt to those journeying back in the beginnings of the first millennium. Caerwent really is an experience unlike any other.though there are houses and gardens there us a feel to them that they are sitting awkwardly amongst the ruins of the past/ the ruins have precedence. Later my hosts tell me that if an inhabitant wants to make any stru crural change they must first finance an archaeological dig. For me, an avid delver into roots of all manner this is an exciting prospect though I can imagine a rather less positive response coming from a householder of less means faced with a large bill for simply hoping to add a room for a growing family.
I visit the temple, forum and basilica, shops, houses, but not the church/ it us licked tight shut against all comers with a plank of wood wedged across the double doors on the inside. I ask at the post office, I am the third that morning to enquire but nobody knows why the doors have not opened this day. A fellow shopper pulls a face and says she has stopped attending that particular church and I wonder what the incumbent has done to turn a parishioner elsewhere. Tis a shame, the church is reputedly full of Roman artefacts, but this is not the theme of my walk so I walk on, wondering why as I do the were allowed to continue building alms houses on the site, just outside the east wall of a circular temple. In my quest for our roots I am now naturally drawn to the circular and though exactions at the time revealed it to be a Roman building still for me beneath on that now flattened site a n earlier structure may well have stood. The Burton alms houses though are tastefully done and I sit facing them to eat my lunch.
Once back on the road I soon leave the pavemented dualcarriageway and head off onto quiet country lanes in search of Sunstone mediaeval village, site of. I am mist disgruntled then to find that a modern barn conversion now straddles where the path must once have been with no way into the field where the remains lie.
I carry on along the lane !moving how it really is soon a walkway just for me, alone with my thoughts and the green of ear!y summer all about me.
Mounton church is locked against all comers and I sit u nder an ancient yew in a bench at the side of the road. I get to wondering of the parents of these ancient church side yews, and of the stories they would tell.
The rain starts to fall and accompanies me into Chepstow and doesn’t let up.
I eat a most deliciously prepared squash rissotto with Glyn and Rose and hear of transition land share, planters, green events and chicken club. It is most reassuring to hear of a transition initiative still going strong after several years, not having collapsed or burnt out. They are looking to branch out further, attract new people, younger people, and of projects to widen out their reach.
They talk of the town centre with few independent shopkeepers now and I recall Exeter’s community shop, a dream when I set out on my first storywalk, now a thriving hub and wonder if that is a possibility here.
Rose and Glyn are interested in inner transition and have heard Sophie Banks speak on it. They think it perhaps something to begin to explore more with their group.
After supper Rose and I head off into town to the Wye Valley Writers meeting. It will be the first writers meeting I have ever attended. I am excited and curious.
We hear of post election disappointment, horror of the Oxford junior dictionary removing words like acorn from the 2015 dictionary to be replaced with others such as mp3 and of the fear felt at the time of the Cuban missile threat through poetry and short story. I read my warriors poem and we listen to each others offerings and offer thoughts and seek clarification.
Audrey is writing a novel set in the late 50s when CND were set up whilst the Russians and the Americans were prepared to hurl nuclear missiles back and forth. She reads her !a test words and I am instantly there with her character. Now I along with the others am one more awaiting the publication of a work ten years in the making.
Vina offers a handy tip she learnt on a writers course, to gather all the threads, to write concise post it descriptions of the content of each chunk , characterisation and plots, and the they can be gathered and arranged and rearranged to find a final sequence for those who write pieces rather than sequentially following a place. I am aware that the book I am gestating has elements of both these styles and value the sharing as a way of supporting the process of weaving the past present and future into my tale.
Bernard suggests my poem be the beginning of my book and I for the first time consider including my poetry into my tale writing. I feel very blessed to have been party to this groups meeting, and greatly honoured to have been presented with a copy of their latest anthology: short stories and poems on the theme of Milestones.
As we leave to walk in the wind and rain swept darkening streets I think back with affection to the evening just spent. Angela’s impassioned ode to the loss of the words which has the group enflamed;imagine childhood with no acorn but attachment instead. Pam’s beautifully rendered piece on grief as election hopes are dashed. She tells me at the end how she holds the edge between transition and labour and I am thrilled. As each perspective is acknowledged thus our strength grows as a people. Honouring diversity is a catc h all that merits a closer look by us all as we weave the tapestry of our future each stitch that binds us lovingly to the next is what will make the vision shine with hope and resilience to stand the test of time.
We end the evening with tales of greenhouse doors flying off in the wind and perusal of maps and of how to avoid precipice walks along the Wye. The story of the gentleman who married his African housekeeper whose son became known in the picturesque times creating grottoes and things to delight the eye in the garden of the ancestral home by the Wye that should not be missed. I hear of the times, Napoleonic times, when the wealthy stopped their grand tour if Europe and rather “did” the Wye instead by pleasure boat. I am fascinated to learn that the magical river catchment area that has captured my imagination was forefather of the industrial revolution with the forest of Dean filled with old remains as much as it enchanted those of the picturesque movement.
It feels like this is an important lesson of life; no one state of being or identity is true; it is simply a face that has been worn to suit the circumstances. It holds true for us people as much as place.

On Being Kind

June 2015 – Day 3
After a lovely breakfast and final chat with Glyn and Rose about bees and other things; they are part of bee friendly Monmouth, admiring their meadow lawn so similar to my own, and hearing of one of their transition group who knows everything about bees and has learnt to become fluent in Welsh too since his arrival in Monmouth shire, I set out in the drizzle to see Chepstow castle.
It startles me with its size. It must have been an impressive sight when it was first built. The Norman invaders surely made their presence felt, it must have felt quite terrifying to the locals.
It is also the start of the Wye valley walk. A boulder from Plinlimon has been brought down as the official marker. I set out, the way couldn’t be easier to start with but I am not lulled into any false sense of security, I have pre warned about the challenges of this first stretch of the walk. For a mile or two all is well, and the stick Glyn has told me to look out for to help me turns up perfectly strewn amongst a heap if broken branches it has a smooth forked top and is stout and the exact height for me. I feel as if I have been given my Merlin’s staff.
The famous picturesque views of Valentine’s Piercefield are totally obscured by the strong summer leaf growth in the tree covered gorge . The path takes me high above it by hundreds of feet and I am glad I cannot see the sheer drop so close to my right side. I keep left and use my stick to stop me from slipping in the newly muddy path after the previous day and night of rain, and the continuing mizzle.
As I amble along, very slowly, I think about what Glyn said about those young children not so many years ago that were sent to school by their parents only to discover that everything that came naturally to them was wrong. We have in common fathers who began their education left handed and left ambidextrous after having been forced to write with their right hands. Then there were the Welsh children, like his mother, who on arrival at school had a sign hung around their necks saying No Welsh ‘dim cymru’ and forbidden to communicate in their native language.
The image of the horror and cruelty of these recent times stays with me. How many unheard stories must there be buried deep in our psyches just awaiting release? For how long have we considered education as a wholly good thing and neglected to pay attention to the unhappy consequences of misguided rules that served no one.
My reveries are soon broken by the realisation that I am now on the part of the route that Rose has told me about. Fortunately the trees summer growth masks the worst of it but what they cannot do is provide protection from paths that muddily slope downwards so that a walker needs only slip slightly once to be at the bottom of a precipice and in the river far far below.
There then follows what is quite possibly one of the most frightening episodes of my life. For maybe half an hour possibly more I walk mindfully one step at a time, poking ahead with my faithful staff for roots and stones my feet can get more purchase on, breathing deeply and totally focussed on making it to the upward footpath that will take me off this most hazardous of trails. It is a lesson in kindness to myself. I promise the little one inside me that we will never risk such a trail again, that we are finished with so called pleasure trails and shall henceforth stick to the favoured back lanes and village hop as is our preference.
When I finally spot the upward footpath my mouth is dry and I realise just how scared I have been. Alone and in potential danger from one wrong foot or a second taking my concentration away from the present moment I have learnt how much love I have for this my body and my life. Kindness begins with ones self.we can only extend as much love as we can feel for ourselves. I feel this lesson I have learnt this day.
As I climb the steep footpath away from the perilous trail a high wind blows and I hide behind broad trees as I go, aware that had this wind begun when I was still on the treacherous trail it would have amplified the chances of a slip. I shout into the wind, daring it to confront me in this way when I am full of the energy of self preservation. In that moment I feel the strength of my fierceness and it fuels my swift ascent to the top of the woods and out to temple door. This old entrance to the Piercefield estate is now in ruins and gives out to the main road. I sit at it and drink from my drink bottle.
Then I cross the road and stride purposefully down the hill to the little lane leading away from the main road. Lanes again. I let relief filter through my system as water flowing over smooth stones and walk with bright sunshine energy on the inside. I become aware of my faithful staff. It is cumbersome now I don’t need it anymore, I am aware of its weight and the way my gait is different when walking with a stick. My thumb and fore finger feel chaffed from grasping it and I know I cannot carry it on with me. I leave it leaning against a hawthorn and Rowan grown together at the lane side. I can hear it begging not to be left behind, it has become embued with my protector energy and feels somewhat alive. I stay some minutes with it, then kiss it goodbye with thanks and walk on, telling it it may join me in the future if it is needed and that it may, in the meantime, be needed by some other walker.
I feel as if I have left a good friend behind.
The lanes are wonderful now. I amble to my hearts content. I pass a solitary chapel and still onward I go headed for Tintern, the long way round.
My good friend Marion is waiting as I finally descend from the upper ridge where once the main thoroughfare would have led into the little roadside settlement of Tintern. Unbelievably as I have walked the rain has stopped and it has begun to warm up. It is mid afternoon. We walk slowly to a grassy field before the abbey and sit ourselves down facing it on a conveniently situated picnic table.
The sun has come out.
Marion removed cloth placemats and proceeded to lay the table. This is your birthday picnic she says, reminding me that one of the reasons for this walk is to commemorate being 50.
“Thats your birthday present” she adds I smooth down the place at with its stone age aboriginal images, “I brought it you from Santa Fe.” I resolve to look up the meaning of the images when I get the chance.
Marion though has begun to remove other items from her small rucksack; a proper mug for me to drink from. A flask of delicious hot blackcurrant cordial, two types of local cheeses, a chutney, two kinds of speciality crackers, stuffed vegetarian rolls and two kinds of cake. The picnic plates are decorative with a tasteful Morrisesque floral design, matching paper napkins and there is cutlery.
As we tuck into my birthday feast Marion regales me with her latest projects. As ever her enthusiasm is infectious. Although Marion has been I’ll as last ng as I have known her and walks with a stick she is quite the most positive person I know. Why waste time being miserable she wants to know.
Her ongoing project, dream the future, to travel round the festivals collecting the positive visions of the people she meets there continues. More than ten years older than me Marion is now k nown at Glastonbury where she has a stall each year collecting positive stories.
“its such fun” she says, with the delightful school girl grin I know so well
There are other projects afoot; a funder to pay for a really good translator tool so we can all understand one another, no matter our native language, an improvement on google. Let me know if you know of such a person. Then there is a project that is enabling young city folk to start up their own eco build project which she is supporting.
Marion wants 1001 positive visions of the future. Look up Marion MacCartney and Dream the Future to give her yours. We need more people to remember this essential truth. Life becomes what we imagine it will.
We walk onwards, the sun has gone in, staying just long enough to warm our picnic, and for us to share what needed sharing. Marion reads me Wordsworth’s famous musings on the Wye a few miles on from Tintern and I read her the poem I have written for this walk.
We walk along the pavement by the busy main road that zooms alongside the river till we gain Marion’s guest house and where I take my leave. Both Marion and I have Transition to thank for our friendship and our positive future projects. No longer so focussed on what the group may do but widened out into the world, seeding hope, being the change. Living Transition has become who we are, each in our own un ique way.
The lanes i now follow to Llandogo are easy walking. I am pleased I have walked by the Wye finally, seen its calm waters flow on by, but given human intervention it is not so far proving so pleasant to walk so closely beside. I thrill at the sheer exhilarating wow factor of the views up on the ridge and recall a time from my first storywalk, around England,in 2010, when I travelled a couple of miles inland from the famed coastal path in Dorset to follow the original track high up and on a ridge, to find better views, a safer walk and know I was following in the footsteps of ancient ancestors. This fad of recent peoples to want to be so close to waters edge takes no account of the most natural, most harmonious ways to go. When will we realise that we are u nlikely to improve on what the first peoples discovered long ago? That certain truths have been known for all time.
The final episode of this my first day following the way of the Wye is an encounter with the Disorientating Woods.
The map is clear, the land doubles back on itself and the lane is fairly straight forward leading down into Llandogo where I will spend the night. I would not like to be off the road in those woods. The road curves in ways that the map does not show, the way goes on and till I become convinced I have taken the wrong route, but that is not possible, there is no other route to have taken. I quell feelings if panic that arise, its evening and I want to be settled for the night, and walk on. The road leads somewhere, I tell myself. I will worry myself about where when I get there.
Finally houses come into view between the trees though it still takes time before it becomes obvious a settlement has been reached. With relief I send my way down and not the small town, looking back up to see it is Swiss like, perched on the steep hillside amongst the trees. It is clearly Llandogo and now the river is visible again. I take quite a little while to find my host, Jennifer has a guest house on the way out of the village headed onwards following the river source wards where I am going.
My room is at the back of the house overlooking the densely wooded gorge side at the other side of the Wye. Too tired to go back out in search of dinner I say I will take a bath and retire early and am presented with biscuits and fruit.
It is a simple act of kindness, a fitting way to end my day. I lay in the bath for an hour, simply sitting, simply being, no hurry to get anywhere at all. Today I have learnt that kindness begins with taking good care of yourself first. We can only offer others what we are capable of offering to ourselves.